Friday, December 23, 2011

Remembering Christmas

Like a general preparing for some epic battle, I like to have Christmas Day mapped out to military precision… but unlike a general I usually leave it to the last possible moment and then call upon the powers of unbridled panic to get me over the line. Three weeks ago the only Christmas shopping I had completed was ordering a red-gum smoked ham from Barham Meats. Fortunately I have since purchased some gifts for the family, a suitably large frozen turkey and I am now attempting to connect with my inner domestic goddess… and the vacuum cleaner…
Christmas Day for me is all about family and food and spending time with people you love. The day can also conjure up feelings of sadness for family members that are no longer here and life paths that haven’t always headed where you thought they would.
I have fond childhood memories of Christmas Day. One not so fond memory is the feeling of frustration that used to envelope me on Christmas Eve when I was unable to fall asleep due to excitement-induced insomnia. One year I remember counting sheep out aloud in earnest, I so wanted to be asleep so the morning would come quicker.
Christmas was without a doubt the most magical day of the whole year. Tom, Rachel, Bruce and I would all scamper as quietly as we could in the early light of Christmas morning to see what treasures had been left under the tree during the night. Our parents would (finally) appear around 7am and then Father Bill would be in charge of reading the cards on each gift and distributing them to all of us. Following on from the present frenzy we would enjoy a breakfast around the kitchen table of ham, boiled eggs, freshly sliced tomatoes and Mother’s delicious tomato & apple chutney.
As a family we either celebrated Christmas at Red Hill Station out on the Hay Plains with ourselves and Gran and the withering heat of summer or every two to three years we made the pilgrimage to my Mother’s family farm in New Zealand where we marvelled at the green grass, white sheep and absence of flies and dust. We would celebrate with Granny Olga and Grandfather and a multitude of aunts, uncles and cousins.
Whether the dinner was at Hay or Halcombe we always sat down to a magnificent traditional hot meal prepared with pride by my Mother or if we were across the Tasman, by my Grandmother. Our plates would be piled with roast turkey, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, roast pumpkin, boiled baby potatoes and steamed green beans. At the conclusion of the main course the curtains would be drawn and the lights switched off as the very impressive Christmas pudding entered the dining room alight, a mass of blue gassy flames fuelled by a half bottle of cheap brandy. By about 4pm on Christmas day most of us were vowing never to eat again and rallying ourselves for a game of backyard cricket.
This year is the “away Christmas” with my siblings celebrating at their respective in-law’s homes and the boys and I will be celebrating in Barham with Granny and Grandfather Bill. I am visualising a beautiful 26 degree sunny day so we can dine out on the riverbank… not sure how well my powers of manifestation are going having just had a quick look at the Elders weather site...
Wherever you are I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Behind the Barr in 2011 and wish you all a very happy and joy-filled Christmas and an excellent year ahead in 2012.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The joys of owning a dog

During a moment of uncharacteristic weakness in October I relented and agreed that Max could get a puppy. I was caught up in the nostalgia of my own country childhood and growing up with our farm dogs. My first dog was Blackie, a big shaggy black sheep dog who arrived before I was born and was famous for swimming the Murrumbidgee River in full flood to visit a bitch over fifty kilometres away. Blackie’s working mate was my older brother’s dog Rinso a shorthaired black and white collie. I can still remember the feeling of awe that came over me in my Grandmother’s laundry the day I discovered that a washing powder had been named after Tom’s dog.
Another good sheepdog from my childhood was Abba, a black and tan kelpie who arrived as a pup in 1974; the same year a Swedish band won the Eurovision Song Contest. Dad reckoned the pup sounded as though he was trying to sing “Waterloo” when he howled at night.
A good working dog is worth its weight in gold and my all time favourite to this day was a black and tan kelpie bitch I was given in 1991. Spook as I named her, was a beautiful looking kelpie, the Elle Macpherson of the dog world. Unfortunately she was also extremely timid and unable to run having spent the first part of her life locked in a cage and not handled. Several times during the first month of my ownership Dad advised me not to become too attached as “she probably won’t make a sheepdog and you’ll have to shoot her.” Fortunately for Spook we persevered and I took her everywhere with me. She quickly learnt to stick on the back of a motorbike or ute and keep out of the way of horses hooves. A month’s holiday at my parent’s property got her socialising with other dogs and she learnt how to run.
For about the first twelve months Spook was my constant companion but did no work whatsoever. She watched the mustering of sheep with interest from the back of the bike but showed no inclination to actually get off and assist until one day when she was about eighteen months old. I was putting a large mob of merino ewes through a narrow gate and the leaders were getting away. As I started to get agitated and curse Spook looked at me sympathetically. Gesticulating wildly towards the sheep I said to her “Don’t just watch, get off the bloody bike and do something!” …and with that she took off through the fence and around the mob in a perfect cast. She held the leading sheep neatly until the tail of the mob was through the gate and together we got them to their destination. (I still get a warm fuzzy feeling inside when I remember that day) From that day onwards she rarely put a foot wrong and her ability to work out what needed to be done when it came to sheep work was uncanny.
With those fond memories in my mind, on the evening of November 2nd 2011 (it was a Wednesday night around 7 o’clock), Jackie the black and tan kelpie joined our family.
As I lay in bed that night listening to her incessant howling (sorry neighbours), I had two main thoughts: “Thank goodness I’m leaving for Western Australia tomorrow” and “I hope she’s all grown up and through the puppy stage by the time I get back”…ok, well the second thought was optimistic and totally unrealistic I know.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Moulamein Races - bush racing at its best

The festive season kicks along tomorrow with the annual Moulamein Races set to swell the northern end of our shire by a couple of thousand people. There’s nothing quite like a country race meeting to entice people out for a day of socialising, glamorous attire and gambling.
My excitement levels have been slightly subdued on discovery that my planned race outfit has uncharacteristically shrunk in my wardrobe during the last month or so. It would appear that November’s excellent adventure to Western Australia combining detailed research into beer and pizza with Margaret River wines and cheeses is to blame… I may end up wearing a toga in the hotly contested Fashions on the Field and stand next to the über glamorous Emma (First Lady of Wakool Shire) in a thinly veiled attempt to bask in her fashion aura. No matter what I wear, I have no doubt I will be enjoying catching up with friends and having fun in my attempts to back a winning horse. Using age old techniques such as “What colour is the jockey wearing?” “What number is the horse?” and “What is the horse’s name and can I draw any significance to that name?” I am ever optimistic of winning some lunch money.
Horseracing has been interwoven into the social fabric of Australia since the first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861. Mark Twain, the great American writer, humorist and author of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, visited Australia and went to the Melbourne Cup in 1895, observing:
“Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me.”
More than one hundred years since Mr Twain visited our shores and the Cup still stops and unites the nation. Whether that is to attend the race in person; watch it on television; listen to it on a wireless out in the paddock or in my case this year: enjoying the extraordinarily delicious buffet lunch in the Barham Hotel’s beer garden with some friends before downing my glass of sparkling mineral water and heading back to work.
My father Farmer Bill is a keen racegoer and enjoys making a few pilgrimages each year to Flemington to watch the “Sport of Kings” and try his luck on the horses. He has made the observation on more than one occasion that people at race meetings are all smiling and having a good time and often losing money, while people playing poker machines in casinos are devoid of smiles, tense, glum and also often losing money. You can now bet on computer generated racehorses on the internet and often lose money alone in the comfort of your home… I suspect this form of gambling does little to enhance a community’s spirit or an individual’s self-worth.
Meanwhile back to Moulamein Races that will be celebrating more than 130 odd years of bush racing tomorrow. Where the sun will be shining (most likely literally or if not, metaphorically), community spirit will be alive and well and fun times will be had by all… long may they last.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

National parks and state forests need common sense management

With the official arrival of summer yesterday and already at least one “horror” day a couple of months ago of 30 plus degrees with a howling northerly wind, my thoughts turned somewhat apprehensively towards the magnificent red gum forests that surround our towns of Barham and Koondrook. Bushfires are an inevitable part of life in Australia and yet how this threat is managed often leaves plenty to be desired (just ask the poor inhabitants of the Margaret River region of Western Australia who lost their homes last week courtesy of an out-of-control control burn).
In the last twelve months large areas of our local bush have been locked up under the banner of state forests and national parks. A move that put a smile on the faces of the enthusiastic environmental extremists of our nation while decimating our local economy that was previously reliant on the sustainable logging of the red gum forests. In past years when the inevitable lightning strike sparked a bushfire it was often our local timber workers in conjunction with the Rural Fire Service who answered the call to help with their equipment. Logging tracks were maintained, providing access and suitable equipment such as graders, excavators etc were on hand to help contain and extinguish the fires. Who will be on hand now, what equipment will be available and will the bush tracks be maintained to an accessible standard?
On the 19th February 2009 a group of fellow massage therapists and I drove into the charred remains of Marysville, Victoria. As part of a team for the Australian Practitioner Emergency Response Network (APERN) we were called in to massage exhausted CFA workers, army personnel and the forensic police. Seeing the still smouldering aftermath of Black Saturday first hand was a sobering experience to put it mildly. Since then much time and public money has been spent by state and federal governments on trying to work out who is to blame for the Black Saturday fires and how to prevent a reoccurrence of that situation. Personally I am a bit of a fan of the “Keep It Short and Simple” or KISS principle and while I’m not suggesting logging and or cattle grazing would have prevented those fires, I am pretty sure it would have reduced their intensity.
While urban greenies and environmental scientists are busy explaining to us country folk how detrimental selective logging and cattle grazing is to our eucalypt forests these same forests are being wiped out by bushfires, along with anything else in the path of the fires. Perhaps my view is overly simplistic, but I cannot understand why well managed seasonal cattle grazing to reduce the fuel load in the forests and selective logging isn’t a better option? The red gums in our district are springing up like a crop of un-thinned mutant carrots thanks to the flooding of the last two years. How long before we have our own Black Saturday event and will the greenies come and save us?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Good manners... an essential life skill

Good manners and customer service are essential skills in business and life.
Many people believe a good tourist officer is all that is needed to put their town on the map and will campaign vigorously to their local shire council for one. A far more effective and economical means of promoting a town is through the local residents and businesses themselves. It won’t matter how great a tourist officer is, if the town isn’t friendly people won’t stop a second time or recommend it to their friends.
I am always astounded when I meet inhospitable people working in hospitality. When I think of a certain small town in South Australia I remember the sour-faced café owner who in April 1996 grudgingly made me a chicken salad roll. I was on my way to Broken Hill with my (then) husband Duncan to visit my mining engineering brother Tom. Thinking we would do our bit for this town’s local economy we stopped to buy fuel and some lunch.
What a mistake that was. It soon became obvious that we had ruined this woman’s day by requesting lunch. She grumbled her way through the task at hand, with a sneer she pushed the plates with requested rolls across the counter, snatched our money and then vanished into a room at the back of the café. No smile, no thank you, no “have a nice day”, “where are you from?” or “where are you going?”, nothing. I concede it is possible the other inhabitants of this little anonymous town are lovely, but I will never ever stop there again if I can possibly help it… I don’t think Duncan’s been back there either.
There was certainly no lack of hospitality on my excellent adventure to Western Australia that concluded last weekend. My second last night in Perth was spent enjoying a family dinner with Mary, Rod, Ann, Sam, Geoff, Rosie and Jack. My last day in the state’s capital included coffee in Kings Park with Mary and meeting up with Barham’s own Lisa Campbell. My trip ended as it had started with Lisa and I lunching on beer and pizza at Little Creatures and coffee at Gino’s. Jay gave me an early morning lift to the airport the following day where I caught a plane to Adelaide to spend a few days with the Osters of Prospect. By happy coincidence I also met up with the Osters of Barham who were visiting the Osters of Prospect as well.
Last Saturday morning on the final leg of my excellent adventure found me driving into the small Wimmera town of Warracknabeal around nine o’clockish and feeling famished. I was in need of a strong coffee and a bacon and egg muffin. The lady at the Café Peppercorn couldn’t have been more helpful. She smiled, she was polite, she made great food and excellent coffee and the prices were very reasonable. My knowledge of Warracknabeal is limited. Nick Cave the musician was born there in 1957 and the town’s name is taken from an aboriginal expression meaning “place of big gum trees shading the waterhole”. Now I can add: home of Café Peppercorn, good spot to stop.
In August this year my buddies from Hay were on their way to Wandella for the Under 14s AFL semi final and stopped en route at Barham for breakie and snacks. They emerged from the Riverside Café smiling and singing the praises of Gina and Hamish and the Riverside’s fantastically friendly staff. Will my Hay friends stop in Barham again? Will they talk to their friends and family about their very positive experience at Barham? You betcha.
Good manners in the form of a smile; a thank you; a helpful attitude are simple but powerful life skills that make all the difference, no matter where you are. I’m looking forward to implementing these life skills on Monday when we welcome the participants on The Great Victorian Bike Ride.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Western Australian adventure continues...

“Life is uncharted territory. It reveals its story one moment at a time.” Leo F. Buscaglia
Last week’s exploration started with a day trip to the historic township of New Norcia with my grandmother’s sister’s daughter Mary and her sister-in-law Sam. The very tranquil New Norcia is 132km north of Perth and founded in 1847 by a couple of Benedictine monks. It is Australia’s only monastic town and monks still live, work and pray there; as well as brewing a nice drop that goes by the name of Abbey Ale.
Tuesday saw me heading south courtesy of Bayswater Hire in my little Toyota Corolla. I discovered early on that there was an abundance of identical Bayswater Hire cars on the roads… and in winery car parks… most confusing. I quickly christened mine “one dessert to go 395” so I could remember the number plate 1DTG395. Arriving in Busselton I met up with my old friend, ex-Deni girl Sophie and followed her to the family farm near Nannup that she shares with her husband Matt and their children Alina and Xander and about 500 Angus cows.
Sophie had set aside Wednesday to act as a guide for me on an all-day tour of Margaret River wineries and food providores. Notably Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentelle, Vasse Felix (our lunch stop… delicious albeit tiny amounts of food on very large white plates), Woody Nook, Margaret River Chocolate Factory and the Cambray Sheep Dairy.
By Thursday morning I was in need of serious exercise to compensate for the excesses of the previous day, so I walked the length of the Busselton Jetty and back again as a token gesture. Built in 1865 and measuring 1,841 metres it is the longest timber piled jetty in the southern hemisphere.
Leaving Busselton I drove out to visit and stay with more cousins; Barry, Jan and their daughter Emily, at their vineyard and olive farm at Margaret River. Later that afternoon we visited the Colonial Brewery to sample their five different types of beers. Colonial is an excellent microbrewery just down the road from the farm (I was starting to wonder why it had taken me till the age of forty one before getting to know this side of the family?).
Sampling wine made by Barry and Jan’s son Ryan and lunching at McHenry’s Farm Shop the next day, I was introduced to David Hohnen, one of the founders of the Margaret River wine region; he and his family established the Cape Mentelle winery and also Cloudy Bay winery in New Zealand. David took me to view his latest passion; free range Tamworth pigs, selling the end product through the farm shop and the Margaret River Farmer’s Market. Late that afternoon I joined Emily for a couple of hours riding through the state forest bordering their property; Jan lent me her beautifully mannered polocrosse mare Specs.
Saying goodbye to Barry, Jan & Emily I called into the Margaret River Farmer’s Market to take a few happy snaps to show our local Koondrook Barham Farmer’s Market aficionados Lauren and Katrina. Heading further south I discovered Cape Leeuwin, Australia’s most southwesterly point and where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet; then it was time to head east through the Karri forests to Albany. Stopping off along the way I climbed the Gloucester Tree, a huge Karri Eucalypt over 60m high (used as a fire lookout tree), explored the Valley of the Giants and completed the Tree Top Walk through the massive and very impressive Red Tingle trees near Walpole.
Waking up in Albany last Sunday morning I could feel every muscle in my body, the horse riding and tree climbing had caught up with me. Once again I had that run over by a Mack truck feeling, only this time it had reversed over me for good measure…

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hello Western Australia!

Greetings from Western Australia. The first day of my excellent adventure began with the four-hour flight from Melbourne to Perth aboard a Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800. The smiling check-in lady allocated me a seat with plenty of legroom just behind business class. I sat in between Stuart (an explosives expert from Melbourne) and Alex (a Macquarie Bank man from Perth). My grandfather’s sister’s grandson Warwick greeted me at the airport and gave me a ride into the city. For the next few nights I stayed with Warwick and his family Thelma, Emma and Will at their home in Dalkeith.
Focussing on my goal of visiting a brewery (purely for research purposes), I caught a train to Fremantle and arrived in time for lunch at the former boat shed and crocodile farm that is now home to Little Creatures Brewery.
Waitress Meeks showed me to a table handed me a menu and we discussed the merits of various beers. On Meeks’ recommendation, I settled on a small glass of their “Big Dipper” a hop-fuelled Double India Pale Ale. It went down very nicely in the Friday afternoon sunshine with a delicious bowl of garlic and white wine infused mussels. Remembering that culinary match made in heaven (beer & pizza), I went on to enjoy a small wood-fired pizza with a glass of Pale Ale (my favourite) and finished with a glass of Bright Ale (very nice but not as flavoursome as the Big Dipper or the Pale Ale).
By this stage I was starting to feel the effects of the three-hour time difference between Barham and Fremantle and seriously wanting a nap. Clearly it was time to set off for “Cappuccino Strip” the area in Freo known for its alfresco dining culture and Gino’s where I enjoyed an excellent latte.
That night I accompanied Warwick, Thelma and Will to the Cottesloe Hotel for dinner. The pub overlooks the famous Cottesloe Beach and the rather infamous shark-infested waters from Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island.
Early the next morning I was swimming (very close to shore) through those shark-infested waters with Thelma and Warwick. John Williams’ film score he composed for the 1977 film “Jaws”, played continuously in my head…
Warwick, a three-time world champion yachtsman, organised for me to sail with his crew (Biggles, Viv, Bruce and Greg) in the 2011 Governor’s Cup Yacht Race between Royal Perth Yacht Club and Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club on the Swan River. We were aboard their 26-foot yacht Wafwom (an acronym for: What a F****** Waste of Money). Warwick didn’t accompany us for the race as he was in serious training aboard a “flying fifteen” (a two person high performance racing yacht) for the Australian Championships in January 2012.
I know very little about sailing but managed to successfully fling myself repeatedly under the boom as we tacked our way around the course. With over 100 yachts there were some hairy moments as large numbers converged on marking buoys. Things threatened to go horribly and irretrievably wrong and I thought our skipper (Biggles) would lose a kidney as the bow of another yacht came dangerously close as we rounded a buoy. Another yacht nearby lost a man overboard; he was happily rescued. Dangling over the side of Wafwom, with the sails full, the water whipping past and the rain bucketing down, I felt like a true sailor.
By Saturday night I was having dinner in Inglewood with Megan (who is a friend of Ash’s friend Trevor who is a friend of my friend Woolly), her husband Greg and their friends. Exhaustion overtook me between the main course and chocolate pudding and I had to excuse myself for what I anticipated would be a ten-minute power nap. An hour and a half later Megan woke me to say I was most welcome to stay the night but perhaps Warwick and Thelma would be wondering what had become of me?
(The next morning I no longer felt like a true sailor… I felt like someone who’d been run over by a Mack truck).

Friday, November 4, 2011

An excellent adventure based on beer research

By the time many of you read this I will have set out on my excellent adventure to Western Australia. About two months ago I received a phone call from Janet (my former Mother-in-law), letting me know she and Denis were coming to visit for a couple of weeks of Grandparent-time in November and suggesting I take this time off to have a holiday. As other parents will know, opportunities like this don’t come around very often, if ever, so I took Janet’s suggestion and ran with it.
My mind was all turmoil, chaos and Libran dilemma; how to choose a destination? So many choices: Port Lincoln to dive with sharks; camping in the Flinders Ranges; New Zealand’s north island to see the cousins; New Zealand’s south island to walk the Milford Track; Tasmania’s Bay of Fires; exploring in the Kimberley region of Western Australia; a road trip to Byron Bay; the Amalfi Coast of Italy; the south of France to eat baguettes… (yes, I know I was getting carried away); horse riding through the Victorian high country, snorkelling in Palau…
My nearly final thought was Palau. A tiny speck of islands somewhere east of the Philippines and rumoured to be the world’s most beautiful diving location… not that I know anything about diving mind you, but I have snorkelled. I phoned my friend Rossco (a diving fanatic) to see if he wanted to join me on a two-week platonic holiday in Palau. Rossco thought this was a brilliant idea and the fact that we had yet to meet in person was a minor detail.
A couple of weeks later however, Rossco pointed out one major flaw in my plan… in the time since my initial suggestion of flying to Palau, I had started dating Ash (a clever and devastatingly handsome farmer) and perhaps Ash would think this was a less than brilliant idea? Good point, so I moved on to Plan B.
At a friend’s wedding earlier this year I acquired a taste for Little Creatures Pale Ale. By a fortunate stroke of serendipity I was enjoying a small bottle of this rather delicious beer while contemplating Plan B.
Looking down and admiring their label I noticed the Little Creatures Brewery was located at Fremantle in Western Australia, the only Australian State I had yet to visit. On this basis my holiday is now being formed around a brewery, which seems like as good a plan as any.
It got me thinking about the possibilities for “brewery tourism” and how this could be an excellent value adding idea for our district grain growers. Soon I had lapsed into global empire mode and started envisaging Club Barham building a small state of the art brewery at the picturesque Barham Lake Complex, using local grain, creating industry and a tourist attraction for our district as well as selling their (sure to be excellent) beer all around town. If someone would like to establish a cracker biscuit factory (utilising local wheat) it would compliment Jonesy’s Dairy’s planned gourmet cheeses and we could all enjoy local cheese, crackers and beer.
Meanwhile back to my excellent adventure: Besides visiting breweries I also plan to visit old friends I haven’t seen in years, friends of friends who I’m yet to meet and long lost relatives who are rumoured to be lovely. All in all I can’t wait.
Looking forward to typing my column to you from the other side (of the country)… cue spooky music.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fish habitat and common sense

Fish habitat is out of control, what about our habitat? Thanks to the ongoing floods down the Murray River these past twelve months, large chunks of the riverbanks have been washed away and a great many of the River Red Gums lining the banks have toppled into the river. If Mother Nature were a person the greenies would have lynched her by now or at the very least brokered a deal with the government to have her shut down.
A barbie boat ride up the river on a balmy spring evening several weeks ago highlighted just how many trees had fallen in over a relatively short stretch of water. Our little cruise also revealed how implausible waterskiing would be (for the mentally sound), along that particular part of the river this coming summer.
Back in the good old days (read: 1855), the three colonial governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia were paying snagging contractors to de-snag the river and keep it a navigable waterway. Snags were hauled out of the river by bullock teams or in inaccessible areas the snags were towed away using boats. In 1857 Francis Cadell built and operated the first custom made snag boat (the Grapler), which was fitted with a crane and could lift 14 to 15 tons.
By all accounts there was no shortage of Murray Cod caught in the late 1800s and first half of the 1900s, which makes me conclude that perhaps de-snagging alone didn’t have too much of an effect on the cod numbers? This of course was before weirs and water regulation radically altered the river flow and some bright spark was yet to release the “Boolarra” strain of Cyprinus carpio (common carp), into the waterways.
Fast-forward to our present day where the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage prosecutes anyone found guilty of removing snags from the river. It is their view that fallen trees and branches provide crucial breeding habitat for the Murray Cod. Having done some (relatively shallow) research into the subject myself, I tend to agree….. to a point.
Surely it is possible for a compromise to be reached that would be beneficial for the river, the native fish and the people? Australia’s Murray River is still supposed to be a navigable river. The rate at which trees are tumbling into it will cause the Murray to be choked with snags and debris sooner rather than later. Would it not be possible to have both areas at intervals along the banks for fish habitat as well as keeping the middle of the river clear and navigable for boating and recreational activities?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pavlovas and Wilma

Community spirit is the trump card for living in the country and the reason I love living where I do. There’s nothing quite like the annual district agricultural show to demonstrate that sense of community we can all enjoy. Thanks to the dedicated and hard working team of volunteers, we got to enjoy an excellent outing to the Barham Show last weekend. Beginning with the very social Friday night opening and spectacular fireworks display that no doubt had half the town’s dog population heading for the bush.

Each year I have grand plans to flood the pavilion with entries but sadly my organizational skills are usually in disarray. Suddenly the deadline is upon me before I’ve cracked one egg or looked in the veggie garden for suitably impressive beetroot and my prize-winning photographs are still stored on my computer. 

This year was no exception. 

Luckily I work best under pressure. Actually to be truthful, I only work under pressure. However, I was determined to honour my vow of entering a pavlova in memory of my friend Wilma.

It was thanks to the pavlova section at the Barham Show that I met Wilma Bott. 

2009 was our first year as Barham residents and I was keen to support the local show by entering a few of the categories. Reading through the show booklet I circled a few sections that I felt the boys and I could enter (garden produce, eggs, cookery and my favourite: “the longest gum leaf”).

My mother Caroline is an excellent cook, with her signature dish being the pavlova. Every Sunday afternoon of my childhood we would sit down around the kitchen table to a huge roast lamb dinner (read: 2 yr old merino wether …..much tastier) with all the trimmings; gravy, mint sauce, roast pumpkin, roast kumara (Mother hails from the Land of the Long White Cloud) and roast potato, tomato and onion pie and peas flavoured with handfuls of mint leaves from the garden. This feast culminated in a magnificent marshmallow centred pavlova topped with freshly whipped cream, bananas and passionfruit for pudding. 

Sunday mornings were synonymous with the deafening roar of Mother’s 1966 Kenwood Chef mixer as it whipped up the egg whites, sugar, salt, vanilla essence, cold water, vinegar and cornflour.

Having witnessed this ritual for years I was confident I could recreate one of Mother’s masterpieces for the Barham Show. However I had no idea how the pavlova was to be presented. 

I consulted with friends (who also had no idea) and the general consensus was that I must phone Wilma Bott; the original domestic goddess of Barham and winner of numerous pavlova competitions. 

Wilma happily shared her knowledge. She went on to come second in the pavlova section that year and I came in fourth. We met less than a week later in person, where Wilma introduced me to the delights of her yo-yo biscuits and chocolate eclairs and I introduced her to the benefits of massage therapy.

Last Thursday at 5pm was the deadline to enter the pavlova section; I started cracking eggs at 2pm and had a client booked in for a massage at 4pm.

Cracking eggs when you are feeling “under the pump” is not recommended. Fourteen eggs later I had finally managed to correctly separate the eight eggs necessary for my mega pav recipe (I was beginning to wish I was entering a frittata instead of a pavlova). I raced the still warm pavlova to the showground with minutes to spare.

Days later and I am still basking in the glory of winning the coveted 1st prize, although I suspect it may only be due to divine intervention ….thanks Wilma.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Retail espionage and the Red Carpet Evening

A couple of months ago I found myself inadvertently attending a linen party. You see I had headed out one evening in the mistaken belief that I was attending book club, when “Surprise! We’re having a linen party!” I hate shopping at the best of times, it is an activity I will avoid if I possibly can, so I was initially somewhat less than impressed by this retail espionage.
Party plan shopping is an anxiety-ridden experience for me, as I feel almost guilty if I don’t purchase something at an exorbitant price that I will never use again. However, on this particular night my resolve was firm; I had come for book club, not to shop. Luckily this resolve didn’t stop me from encouraging my fellow book clubbers to purchase linen and enjoying an excellently funny evening. On the contrary, I became wildly enthusiastic when we spied an over the top, Vogue Living-style pillowslip. It was made of satin silky stuff with (I kid you not), ruffles down the centre. God only knows how a linen designer’s mind works; it looked totally impractical to me.
As I thoughtfully sipped on a glass of champagne I remembered other champagne sipping experiences, namely the major fundraiser for the Barham & District Medical Centre; the annual Red Carpet Evening. Fashionista I am not, but I do love an excuse to frock-up for a night out, especially when it is for a noble cause that includes great company, dancing, yummy snackie food and adult drinks. The Red Carpet Evening is a win-win situation: you are supporting your local medical centre, you have a great night out, ladies get to frock-up and all men look smoking hot in black tie.
Meanwhile back at our linen party book club meeting and the impractical pillowslip…. It would make the most fabulous formal frock if you were stylish, slim and petite. Sadly I am not, although fellow book club member Robbie May most certainly is. With a little encouragement from her book club buddies, Robbie twirled around the room modelling the pillowslip “frock”. A glass of champagne later and Robbie was purchasing two pillowslips and vowing to take them holidaying in Bangkok and have them made into a formal outfit that would be revealed at the Red Carpet Evening.
With this year’s Red Carpet Evening almost upon us (next Saturday night 22nd October at the Barham Golf & Country Club), I am tingling with anticipation at the thought of seeing the pillowslips transformed into formal attire and our local celebrities-for-an-evening strutting their stuff on the dance floor. Drop into Debbie Bott’s B&D Gifts in Mellool Street to pre-purchase your Red Carpet Evening tickets and support this worthwhile event – I shall look forward to seeing you there.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Seasonal jet-lag

Once again I have been afflicted with seasonal jet-lag courtesy of daylight savings; an initially frustrating annual event for those of us that don’t like our routines altered. Daylight Savings, people either love it or hate it ….or if you are similar to me, you hate it then you love it then you hate it again.
I have reached the conclusion that the people most affected by the commencement of daylight savings are “morning people”, of which I am one. Morning people like getting up early and we look forward to the lengthening days of summer when the sun gets up earlier. Daylight savings (to put it bluntly), stuffs this natural cycle. When we put our clocks forward by sixty minutes on the first Sunday in October, we are effectively putting our morning light back to the beginning of August.
Luckily for me, I am also a “night person” and can happily stay up to all hours of the night, so I am quite partial to the extra daylight hours at the end of the day ….especially if I want to head out for an evening kayak after dinner or kick back on the riverbank with friends after work. Sadly I am not a “middle of the day” person and would really rather be having a nap like all those enlightened Spaniards; the siesta is a concept of pure genius.
Australia first observed daylight savings in 1917, during the First World War as an energy saving initiative. During World War II, once again all Australian states and territories observed daylight savings. Then in 1968 the Tasmanians decided it would be a great idea to have daylight savings every summer and after a couple of years the rest of the country thought so too …..except Queenslanders and now West Australians (who are a law unto themselves).
Coming from a strong rural background I am almost genetically programmed to oppose the commencement of daylight savings. Fortunately for me I seem to be becoming more adaptable with each passing year and with less than a week of summer time under my belt, much to my surprise I already love it. I shall raise a glass to George Vernon Hudson, the shift working, bug collecting, postal employee from New Zealand who first proposed the idea of daylight savings in 1895 (summer evenings are an excellent time to collect bugs if you are an entomologist).
I would write more but now I have to take advantage of the extended daylight hours and go barbie boating down the Murray River on this glorious spring evening.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Running away from home

A few weeks ago I ran away from home. It was about ten to five in the afternoon and I had to do a couple of jobs down the street anyway.
Max and Sam had been having a fight involving the biffing of various objects at one another as siblings do. Predictably it ended in tears with both brothers denying any wrongdoing. Clearly in my mind one of my sons wasn’t telling the truth. This reluctance to accept responsibility managed to transform me in the briefest of nanoseconds from “Happy Mother of the Year” to one very angry and frustrated parent; picture the female equivalent of Lord Voldemort (the most powerful dark wizard of all time in the Harry Potter series). I informed them they were both grounded until further notice and only just managed to stop myself from saying till they were eighteen.
Declining Henry’s offer to come with me, I grabbed my keys, glared at my children and quoting Captain Lawrence Oates of Antarctic exploration fame, said “I am just going outside and may be some time”. Unlike Captain Oates I didn’t leave my tent and head into a blizzard and certain death. I headed down the street in my trusty Nissan Wagon for a bit of “me time”. Had I been a bloke this “me time” would possibly have turned into a trip to the pub and the companionship of my mates, it was nearly 5pm after all. Sadly I conceded the pub may not be the best choice for a single mother having a meltdown, so I went off in search of friends instead.
Finding my friend Ilka down the street, she empathised with me about the frustration of being a parent and the naughtiness of offspring, however she was on her way home to cook dinner. Drats!
Completing my down-the-street jobs of dropping off paperwork with the accountant and purchasing a smoke alarm I decided I was not yet in a happy enough frame of mind to resume my parental responsibilities. So I called around to my friend Joy’s childfree home. She put the kettle on but then reconsidered and opened a bottle of 2007 Restdown Shiraz instead.
There’s nothing like talking things through with a friend to help you get some perspective. Together we made a list of all the things that were worrying me and agreed it was a minor miracle I wasn’t in a foetal position on the floor crying and that really, being grumpy with my children and walking away for an hour or so wasn’t all that bad. We also made a list of all the good things going on in my life and in true Libran style I managed to make the lists balance. On some occasions my fuse is far too short to count to ten.
Sometimes walking away from a situation is the best way to calm down and recharge your batteries.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What it's like to skydive

Terminal velocity are two words that really shouldn’t be in the same sentence….. not when you’re about to go skydiving. (Apparently a skydiver in a belly to earth free-fall position reaches a speed of about 195 km/h before the chute opens). Last Saturday the Elders weather site was predicting a near perfect forecast for Nagambie and I was booked to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet.
My ground support crew comprised Max, Sam and Henry, co-driver “GPS” Jane and Squadron Leader Edgar Pickles DFC & Bar, by 8.30am we were on the road to an excellent adventure. The plan was to enjoy a sumptuous lunch at Plunkett Fowles Winery at midday followed by skydiving at 2pm. However we arrived about an hour ahead of schedule, so at the urging of my youngest son we popped out to Skydive Nagambie via the historic Kirwans Bridge to see if it would be possible to jump before lunch (Henry was concerned that lunch might make me too heavy for the parachute ….he knows what my appetite is like).
Stepping out at the drop zone you could almost smell the adrenalin. There were skydivers everywhere and I thought I would have Buckley’s chance of jumping early. I introduced myself to Louise (Accelarated Free Fall Instructor, Drop Zone Safety Officer and Drop Zone Operator), she smiled and said “No problem, you’ll be in the next load; it leaves in 15 minutes”. I was quickly introduced to my new best friend, Tandem Master Ryan who fitted a harness to me and then went over the sequence of moves we would perform once we exited the plane. Then it was big hugs with the boys and the rest of my support crew before climbing aboard the PAC 750XL turboprop and beginning our ascent to 14,000 feet.
Finally we reached the required height, the door opened and the solo jumpers exited. Suddenly it was our turn.

Cameraman Jono stepped outside and gave me the thumbs up, Ryan sat on the door ledge and I hung out into the abyss, feeling reasonably secure in the harness. Ryan tipped forwards and we were out. 

The noise of the wind was incredible as we headed south; Jono seemed to be buzzing around us like a demented blowfly with a camera and I hoped my top was modestly in place. We did a few 360 degree spins and the ground still seemed a long way away. After about a minute of free-falling (the longest 60 seconds in history), Ryan pulled the ripcord; it felt as though we were being sucked back up as the canopy opened and rapidly slowed our descent. The noise ceased and we floated down at a leisurely pace, enjoying the incredible view of the countryside and the glorious spring sunshine.
Ryan steered us safely in for landing, which was less scary than I had been anticipating. Earlier that morning I had read a quote by Captain Charles W. Purcell “Out of 10,000 feet of fall, always remember that the last half inch hurts the most”. At that point I decided to stop all research into skydiving until after I had completed my jump. My friend Rossco, an aeronautical engineer and ex-paratrooper had told me their motto was “Knowledge Dispels Fear” I had replied that I preferred my own motto of “Ignorance is Bliss” when it came to jumping out of a plane.
Back on the ground and very happily reunited with Max, Sam, Henry, Jane and Edgar, we headed off for our very delicious lunch. All in all an amazing life experience that I wouldn’t mind repeating.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Where our food comes from

Where our food comes from and educating urban Australia. Two generations or approximately 50 years ago, the majority of Australians still had close ties with the bush. They either lived on a farm or had grandparents, close relatives or friends who lived on a farm. For many city kids back then, the school holidays meant a trip to the bush to catch up with their country cousins. They had the opportunity to experience milking the cows, feeding the chooks and collecting the eggs, picking the fruit and vegetables, seeing a sheep, steer, chook or pig being killed to provide the meat for the family. Sadly, today this is not the case.
It would appear there is a growing number of people in urban Australia who are anti-agriculture, in particular anti-animal agriculture. I suspect this may be due largely to the fact that many urbanites are disconnected from the bush and simply don’t understand how the food in their supermarkets got there.
The vast majority of Australian farmers were horrified along with the rest of Australia when the Four Corners program broke the news earlier this year on the way cattle were being slaughtered in a small number of Indonesian abattoirs. Clearly something needed to be done quickly to assist these abattoirs in achieving a best practice standard that the majority of Indonesian abattoirs already maintained.
The Australian government’s decision to abruptly suspend all live export of cattle to Indonesia not only affected Australian farmers and the multitude of businesses and their employees that are linked to primary production but the people of Indonesia who rely on Australia to provide 25% of their beef. Australia effectively cut off a food supply to another country. How would we have felt if roles had been reversed and it had been Indonesia supplying us with 25% of our beef?
On a brighter note, rural tourism in the form of Farmer’s Markets are experiencing rapid growth and popularity. Reaching more of the Australian population and encouraging face-to-face communication between the city and townsfolk and the farmers who produce the food.
Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated few, our district is holding it’s very first Koondrook Barham Farmer’s Market this Sunday at James Park near the bridge in Koondrook. On the same day is the Koondrook Spring & Car Boot Sale in Apex Park. Start at one market and head down the Koondrook River Statue Walk, through the historic Arbuthnot Sawmill to the other. Invite your city friends, make a weekend of it and bridge the city/country divide.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bucket lists and trivia nights

Last Friday night I arrived home almost victorious from my first ever trivia night. My apologies to my table for my mistaken belief that a barrow was the term used for a neutered male donkey…… if only we’d had a hog farmer on our table…. or if only I’d listened to the greater knowledge of local butcher Rohan who was sitting next to me… What an excellently funny night organised by the Barham Primary School as a fundraiser. To the amazement of some of my friends, I had never before attended a trivia night and had in fact announced it was “on my bucket list”.
How many of us have a list either written down or stored in our minds, of things we want to do, achieve or experience one day? The phase “bucket list” became widely known following a 2007 film of the same name starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The two central characters are both very ill and compile a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket” and then set about accomplishing each thing.
Around the first week in January I like to compile a “List of Goals” for the coming year and it never fails to give me satisfaction to review the previous year’s list and tick a few things off. I am a bit of a fan of lists in general; shopping lists, things I must do before the day is out lists, household chores lists, bookwork lists, things to plant in my veggie garden lists, how to spend thirty million dollars when I win first division lotto lists.….
Having a bucket list is a way of reminding us of what we want to achieve in this life. Reviewing it on a regular basis keeps us on the path to achieving our goals and having some excellent life experiences along the way. So often we put things off, using excuses like; it’s not the right time, I’m not old enough, I have to finish school first, I can’t afford to take time off work, I don’t have the money, the children are too small, I’m not fit enough yet, I’ll do that when I retire. Bucket list ideas need not be all “big ticket” items like climbing Mt Kosciuszko, travelling the Trans-Siberian railway from Vladivostok to Moscow or jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet (although it’s great to have a few of those on there too), include some easily achieved, simple fun things that you’ve never done before like attending a trivia night, playing a game of lawn bowls before you turn 20, 50 or 100, climb to the top of Pyramid Hill, hire a kayak and go for a paddle on the river, walk around the Barham Lake with a friend.
If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend an outing to the Golden Rivers Theatre Group’s “Pride & Prejudice” for an evening or afternoon matinee of beautiful singing, fine acting and laugh out loud humour. Our talented local thespians and their equally talented production team are at it again with their annual performance. Just watching the hilarious array of facial expressions produced by Catherine Dawson aka Mrs Bennett is a treat in itself.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why our kids can't win (or lose)

AFL recommendations for junior players and why the Raiders Under 11s can’t lose…… or win.
For the past two seasons our Under 11 football team has been prevented from losing or winning thanks to the wisdom of the Central Murray Football Netball League’s Board of Management.
The Central Murray Board has submissively followed an AFL recommendation “to make junior football less competitive and remove the pressure from the younger players”. What they haven’t said, but is commonly acknowledged at club level, is this recommendation came about because of poor crowd behaviour in some areas of Melbourne.
Poor crowd behaviour is not an issue for clubs within the CMFNL. Perhaps we are just a happier bunch up here in the country with a stronger sense of community? Or maybe we have a better grasp on good sportsmanship? Despite this fact the Central Murray Board still insisted the clubs follow their ruling of no scoring, no ladder and no premiership for the Under 11s. Despite the fact that none of the then 12 clubs within the CMFNL wanted those AFL recommendations adopted. I question the role of the Central Murray Board and if their dictatorship style of management is beneficial for the future of football? Was their decision to follow AFL recommendations purely based on the promise of financial kickbacks from the AFL?
Speaking with the Raiders Under 11s super coach, Shane “Jumbo” Guerra last week, he emphasised the importance to young players of both winning and losing. Stating while everyone wants to win, there are often more lessons to be learnt when you lose.
Anyone listening to Jumbo’s coaching advice to his young players at training on a Wednesday night or at a game on a Saturday morning, cannot help but be impressed with the strong respect he commands and the excellent sportsmanship he instils. Listening to the way some people speak to their contemporaries, parents, teachers or employers, respect and sportsmanship are important life lessons that appear to be on the wane in many areas of modern society.
Under 11s football is not Auskick. These players are fully paid members of the Koondrook Barham Football & Netball Club and yet they are denied the opportunity to play competitively in an official sense. In a world where concern is growing about the decreasing resilience of our young people and the rise of the “Nanny State”, I question how removing healthy competition is beneficial to our children?
U11 Raiders at Nyah, June 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Saying goodbye to Froggy

Last Saturday morning I was lying in bed enjoying the fact that I had recovered from my bout of “man ‘flu”, we had no footy commitments that morning & I could catch up on some reading before channelling my inner domestic goddess and tackling the somewhat neglected household chores.
Then the phone rang. My friend Woolly was in tears; his wife and my friend of twenty years was in hospital and the prognosis was bleak. It was the phone call I knew would come one day but never really expected. In my mind that imagined call was always a good ten or fifteen years away. Not on a beautiful sunny morning in August 2011.
I met Froggy at the 1991 Head of the River in Geelong. She was there with her great friend Angie (a sister of a school friend of mine). It was through that chance meeting with Froggy and Angie that I ended up with a job at Bullawah Station between Hay and Conargo. We became friends and attended many B&S balls together and countless Friday nights at various district pubs (Conargo, Booroorban, Hay, Jerilderie and Deniliquin).
The years went by, we met good men, married and had children. Then one day twelve years ago Froggy phoned. She was expecting their second baby and a doctor had just informed her she had multiple sclerosis (MS). I have no idea how I would come to terms with a diagnosis like that if it had been me but Froggy faced it with calm determination. She walked into hospital to have her beautiful baby girl Charlotte and came out in a wheelchair.
Froggy is a great listener and many times over the years I have been grateful for her wise counsel and girly advice in all manner of subjects from being a wife, being a parent, the sudden and unexpected departure of my husband to my latest internet dating escapades.
It was confronting and bewildering for me to arrive at Terang hospital on Saturday afternoon and find Froggy who I’d been chatting with only two short weeks ago now struggling for breath, unable to speak, eat or drink. What do you say to a friend at this time? I talked about the things we’d done together, the funny stories, great times, the five awesome children that we’d made and I told Froggy that I loved her and how grateful I was that she was in my life but mostly I just sat with her, held her hand and stroked her face.
That night Woolly and I stayed at the hospital. Woolly on the couch and I was in my swag on the floor. It was like being back in those days of early motherhood when you’d wake at the slightest noise your baby would make. It was a wrench to leave on Sunday afternoon to come home. Saying goodbye to Woolly, their daughters Isabella and Charlotte and most of all, my friend Froggy who I won’t see again. A humbling experience that shifts my perspective and reminds me what is important in this life. Safe travels Froggy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Man 'flu and having faith in our own body

Why is it so hard to get a doctor’s appointment and are we too dependent on Western Medicine? Rather ironically I thought up this topic last week, when I was the picture of good health. Today my head is pounding, I have a roaring temperature, runny nose and hacking cough and have had to reschedule my clients. I seem to have somehow contracted the female equivalent of “man ‘flu” (only much much worse). I sincerely hope my obituary doesn’t appear in this issue of The Bridge as well.
Meanwhile back to my topic for the week. Being blessed with relatively good health, I only visit my doctor occasionally for an annual check up, which I usually get around to every two or three years. I am always amazed at just how busy my doctor is. Typically I will phone for an appointment to be told by the very helpful receptionist, that there is a six week wait. Unless it’s urgent and then they will do their level best to squeeze me in. SIX WEEKS! (note: my doctor isn’t in Barham).
In our world of mobile phones, text messaging, the internet, fast cars, fast food; we are so expectant on instant results, that no one has any patience (except for doctors… and that’s an entirely different word). We want to be better NOW (God knows, I do), we want to rush off to the doctor and get a pill or potion as soon as possible. I wonder though, is this helping our bodies? Have we lost faith in our body’s own incredible power to heal itself. Are we clogging up doctor’s appointment books with unnecessary appointments? Would it not be better to perhaps pause, spend a day in bed or relaxing in the sunshine, get extra sleep, live on homemade chicken soup and give our bodies a chance to heal themselves? Obviously I’m referring to relatively trivial, run of the mill illnesses here. For serious medical concerns get to your local GP or hospital quick smart.
About ten years ago I was struck down with my first ever bout of sinusitis; it was agony. Off to the doctor I went and was quickly prescribed some antibiotics, they worked like magic. Or so I thought until the next bout of sinusitis followed a month or so later and so began a cycle of sinusitis, doctor’s appointment, antibiotics, sinusitis, doctor’s appointment, antibiotics. That went on for the best part of 18 months until I discovered an ancient Chinese remedy: sniffing warm salt water up my nose. Simple yet effective in solving sinusitis.
There is a lot to be said for good food, fresh air, regular exercise and plenty of sleep (some days this is easier to achieve than others). My regular early morning walk with my friend Ilka is as much about mental health as it is about physical health. The physical exercise gets the endorphins bouncing at the start of the day and we take turns in discussing whatever is on our minds (some fascinating topics I tell you!). Right about now I could mention the benefits of regular massage therapy…. but that may be viewed as advertising…. so I won’t.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How I became a columnist

At the start of last week I received an email from the editor of The Bridge, suggesting that seeing as I appeared to enjoy sharing my thoughts with the world on a regular basis, then perhaps I would like to pen a weekly column. No pressure, I could write about anything I liked just so long as I “…don’t slander anyone, no name calling, no swearing and no constant advertising of your massage parlour – plus try to keep it truthful. Regards Pete” I agreed and ignored his faux pas regarding my remedial massage therapy clinic.
My tendency towards megalomania surfaced and soon I was envisaging a syndicated column on a global scale combined with an excellent passive income stream. By 5.30am the following morning however, I was frozen with anxiety and wondering how on earth I was going to write anything, let alone a weekly column? I had writer’s block and I hadn’t even begun my new literary career.
Since then I have pretty much swung between delusions of grandeur and a crisis of confidence of epic proportions. These wild swings of emotion may be due to astrology and the fact that my star sign is Libra. I once read that a Libran’s idea of a balanced diet was to pig out one day and starve the next. Moderation is not my thing.
Hopefully some weeks this column with make you think, laugh or think and laugh (even better), other weeks it might make you despair at the trivia that comes from the deep (and not so deep) recesses of my mind…. bear with me if you can.
In the interest of research I have spent a considerable amount of my spare time this week Googling “how to write”, “how to be a columnist” and “how to stop procrastinating”, borrowed the film “Marley & Me” from Peelies Video Store, cried watching the film “Marley & Me”, wondered if my column would improve if I got a dog and ordered a couple of books on how to be a writer.
To quote my good friend Jane, “Anyway, enough about me; what do you think about me?”

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why Barham isn't Venice

Another week, another issue effecting our town (and no, I have not forgotten about our white line fiasco ...when is that community painting day?).
I wish to draw people's attention to another very real issue effecting our local economy: the SES flood warnings for the Murray River at Barham. (Note: I am not referring at all to the people of surrounding areas of Benjeroop, Murrabit and Kerang districts who were affected by flood waters in a catastrophic & devastating way)
Many of us in town, I am sure, received numerous phone calls over summer from concerned friends outside of our district, worried about our welfare and if indeed we were submerged under flood waters in the township of Barham. While causing some of us amusement that people actually thought this may have been the case, it also caused an extremely detrimental effect to our local economy in the form of a sharp downturn in visitors to our town and district.
This is happening once again with the recent SES flood warnings for the Murray River at Barham.
Barham's economy is greatly enhanced by and partially dependent on the tourists and travellers that come and visit. Unfortunately when the SES issues a flood warning for the township of Barham (albeit minor rural flooding), people are prone to misinterpret that warning and visualise our town in a Venetian like setting, ie: our streets as canals and the inhabitants getting around in Australian gondolas (tinnies). Whilst amusing (now I am visualising it myself), this is not a good thing. People then tend to avoid coming to visit as they mistakenly believe we are cut off by floodwaters.
What is the solution? I am sure it cannot be that hard to rectify. Perhaps more specific flood warnings? Are minor rural flood warnings really necessary? As I have stated in a previous letter, the SES & their volunteers do a brilliant job under difficult circumstances ...however the issue of flood warnings needs to be addressed and a solution found.